MACOMB – Participants of the Rising Stars theatre experience camp performed a theatrical stage production over the weekend in Hainline Theatre at Western Illinois University.
Nearly 150 theatergoers had their eyes fixed on “WE,” a play created by the Rising Stars theatre camp. West Central Illinois Arts Center (WCIAC) hosts the Rising Stars theatre camp, a hands-on program for students from Kindergarten through the 8th grade now in its second year. The play took place on Friday, August 3 and Saturday, August 4.  
“WE” is a community-themed play set in a broadcast television news station, with a TV anchor introducing different news stories taking place. The news stories included a dognapping, a fictitious takeover of a news station by princesses, a town that had lost all its power, a wild animal stampede and a faraway kingdom called Alogala.
Each of the stories had something to do with the theme of community, WCIAC Director Nancy Crossman said.
The first story about Alogala was “really about how the king and queen used their power to keep everybody in the kingdom repressed and they didn’t accept people who were different,” she said. “As it turned out, one of the main characters, Mira, had this light within her and that when she revealed the light within her it was blinding to everybody in a good way: it opened their eyes to how we’re all the same and we all should take care of each other.”
A main take-away from the play is that if we keep our light hidden within ourselves, then nobody knows the goodness that is inside each of us, she said.
“Then, we had another story of community that was really about a town where the power went out, and it was kind of how even when we have to face diversity, or adversity, when we work together, we find solutions,” Crossman said. “So, community helps us to find solutions.”
She spoke about how the play developed.
“The play itself is developed by the kids; it all kind of begins with how many kinds we have, what ages are they, their personalities, how they mesh together,” she said. “What usually happens is that we, as it did this year, we come together for the first time, we do some creative activities, they get to know each other and then we talk about what our theme is for the year – this year it was community – and we talk about what does that mean to them.”
Rising Stars theatre camp will return for a third year, and will follow the same format used this year: two weeks of practice and development at the WCI Arts Center and a third week of rehearsal in the Hainline Theatre at WIU. Then, the group uses the stage for performances. For parents of theatrically-minded children, information and registration in the Rising Stars theatre camp is usually available in April or May.
Funding for Rising Stars theatre camp is provided through ticket sales and donations.
“All of the money that we make goes back into the program,” Crossman said. “So, that will help us for next year’s program to get things off the ground, and this year we had a grant from the Tracy Family Foundation – a good portion of the money we received went towards a theatrical projection system and some stage platforms.”
“We were so thrilled with our staff, our team this year absolutely wonderful; the kids were fabulous, the parents are great,” Crossman said. “It’s not just a great experience for the kids; it’s a great experience for all of us and hope that it is a great experience for the community, as well.”

Reach Christopher Ginn by email at cginn@mcdonoughvoice.com or find him on Facebook